Meet Woburn in semifinals tomorrow

GABE SANDERS (1) celebrates his strikeout to send the Warriors to the Div. 2 North semifinals with a leaping Cal Tryder. The Warriors beat No. 1 Whittier Tech 2-1 yesterday. (Warrior Baseball Photo)

Published in the June 11, 2019 edition.

HAVERHILL — A No. 8 vs. a No. 1 on the top seed’s home field.

Pressure is what determines a winner in playoff baseball; and in that above scenario, the pressure usually resides with the 15-3 team trying to protect their own diamond.

That pressure turns up when the opponent is the 2019 Wakefield Warriors.

Wakefield may have felt some of those nerves in their first round game against Greater Lawrence with the weight of a 16-year winless postseason streak heavy on their gloves, but once they snapped that with an emphatic 13-5 statement, the Warriors were free to play loose and aggressive against No. 1 Whittier Tech in Haverhill yesterday as they held on for a 2-1 victory.

The Warriors will get ready to play Middlesex foe Woburn tomorrow, 4 p.m. at Fraser Field in Lynn. The winner will advance to the Div. 2 North Finals.

Loose and aggressive is exactly the type of style head coach Kevin Canty has instilled in his team since he took over the program last year.

Canty, the head coach at Bishop Fenwick for six seasons before coming to Wakefield, is no stranger to the postseason. His Fenwick teams often had a reputation for being the toughest out in Div. 3.

They made the tournament in five of his six years and made semifinal runs three times.

The last time Canty went to the semifinals was in 2017. His 16th-seeded Crusaders snuck into the tournament and rattled off three upsets, one of those being a 3-2 win against Whittier Tech who moved to Div. 2 the next season.

So playing the role of underdogs feeling about the same amount of pressure as a lab trotting around Lake Q on a June Sunday morning, Wakefield went to work.

Taking the ball for the Warriors once again was Chris Alden.

The sophomore, who picked up the win for Wakefield in the first round, made it two in a row, completely shutting down the Wildcats for 6.2 innings as he scattered five hits and one run while striking out six.

Gabe Sanders, as he’s done so often this year, trotted up the hill from his shortstop position to slam the door with a runner on and two outs.

The senior captain sent Wakefield to the semifinals with a strikeout.

The Warriors got on the board in the first inning. Sophomore Cal Tryder started a one-out rally with a base hit and later came around to score on a groundout.

Whittier got the run back in the 2nd on a two out rally but Alden stranded two baserunners with a strikeout.

Alden sat the ‘Cats down in order in the 3rd and Wakefield created their own pressure in the top of the 4th. Chris Coombs reached on an error and moved to second on a groundout. The junior got the green light during the next at-bat and took off for third. As the throw got away, Coombs flew home for the lead and ultimately the game-winning run.

Alden got out of a jam again in the bottom of the 4th with a strikeout looking.

Alden went one, two, three in the 5th and silenced any kind of comeback attempt in the 6th with a couple of pop-ups to Sanders at short and Danny Hurley at first.

The defense stayed locked in during the bottom of the 7th as Scott Elwell converted on a groundout to third. Alden and Sanders took it from there. A strikeout accounted for the second out and after a runner reached, Sanders picked up the save.

The Warriors made it clear yesterday that they’re not satisfied with history.

Wakefield will now look to put pressure on an another higher seeded team tomorrow at Fraser Field in a battle of Middlesex League champs.

No. 4 Woburn finished the season with a 14-6 record and a share of the Middlesex League’s Liberty title with Belmont who was defeated 1-0 in an eight-inning quarterfinal matchup against St. Mary’s yesterday.

Woburn’s division crown was their first since 1978. Wakefield were outright champs in the Freedom Division.

The Tanners have had a flair for the dramatic with two walkoff wins this postseason. Woburn won a marathon first round game against Beverly 4-3 in 11 innings. They won a base hit in the bottom of the 7th against Marblehead in the quarterfinals 4-3 yesterday.

It will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams. Woburn beat Wakefield 7-1 on May 8.